Monday, March 22, 2010

To Pho Or Not To Pho?

My first attempt making Vietnamese Beef Pho! (with side of kimchee)

Welcome to my first Pho 'show and tell"...

Please check links below to 5 more Pho Stars! Also visit Pho Variations for more.

This is not a competition, it all started with many foodie buddies and I comparing notes about pho on Twitter and formed a very loose Pho group. So I decided it would be a great idea for us to make our pho and share it on our blogs (their links are below.) But we'd crank it up a notch by preparing it with non-traditional ingredients. At least, that's what I did after making my initial traditional one. It's open to each person's interpretation. What we add to it would be our own personal spin, the goal of a "Wok Star!" except this time we are Pho Stars!

Here are the Pho Stars...

I am so honored to include my Pho Stars and their tantalizing Pho recipes. They put so much time and effort into making and sharing their recipes, they've put me to shame with my simple pho and Pho Variations. I wish we could live closer and actually have a Potluck Pho gathering. Thanks for sharing!

We hope you will be inspired to make your own pho after reading our blogs! Once you make it, it's addictive, so watch out.

Bonita, a publishing professional in Toronto and food hobbyist made an out-of-this-world, complex Duck Pho. I definitely want to try this version next. If you love duck, this is IT! Boneats, I'll Show you mine if you show me yours.

David, field rep and new dad living in Houston. David is the only Vietnamese among the Pho Stars! His unique game hen Pho is thought provoking: HoustonWok: Chicken Fusion Pho (Pho Ga) Friend or Pho

Shao, born in Guanzhou (we share same birthplace!), grew up in Philly likes to blog about her food journeys. I always enjoy her sense of humor. Her Cambodian slant is very tantalizing especially with the Chinese breadstick! Fried Wontons For You: Mrs. Taing's Family Pho

Don and Jenn, Don's an IT professional, their blog Foodieprints, Lamb Faux Pho: An experiment in Fusion shows their pho obsession. Our broth share a similar element - it's not clear. Another favorite meat of mine is lamb, what a wonderful use of it.

Robbie Nicolaisen, Private Chef, spice blends, hopefully adopting father of Asian kid. Gosh, another complex duck pho and made from scratch. I can smell it now, I like your choice of veggies! ESEChefs: My Style of Pho.

For my first attempt...

Pho is a Vietnamese broth and pronounced feu, French meaning fire. This post is not about the history or a step-by-step how pho is made because there are numerous and fabulous blogs who do that very well. I've mentioned them below so you can check them out.

I stuck to very traditional vegetables like daikon but didn't use fresh bean sprouts to add prior to eating. Having just visited the Redlands and bought some big head onions, I decided to use one and carrots and just top off with cilantro. I really wanted to notice the flavor of the broth and not be distracted by too many other ingredients. When I understand the basis of what a dish consist of, I can then make my variation. So, I'll be posting Pho Variations to illustrate my point.

I added only 3 vegetables to this beef pho: daikon, carrots and onion

The real deal

I'm a big believer in taking the shortest cut to make dinner that's quick while keeping it simple and tasty. But, when it comes to pho, out goes this belief. The intrinsic flavor of this dish is the broth, so you cannot scrimp on the most important element. At first, I was thinking, am I crazy to spend so much time focusing on just the broth? But once I started, there's no going back. This is not like making chicken broth which you can easily buy in a carton. I've never seen ready made pho in a carton, so if anyone knows of a source, do share. Many of the packaged pho mix has MSG in it and taste processed, so I decided it was worth making it from scratch.

Surfing for the best recipe online is so wonderful because you can compare which one gives the best technique. As an advocate and teacher of a no-recipe technique, I use recipes for inspiration. I just never follow a recipe completely. I pick and choose what I think makes sense and/or have in my fridge. Steamykitchen and Vietworldkitchen (also see below) were TOP of my search for Pho! I'm a huge fan of technique because that's what I teach when it comes to wok cooking. Once you know the technique of how to do something, you can basically decide how to proceed.

Below each photo, you'll see a very loose "recipe" and method I used to make my pho. I hope this will spark your creativity. I must reiterate I don't measure anything, so use recipes from the list of Sources below for specific quantities.

Boiled broth for 2 hours: I used 2 packs of beef neck bones, 1 pack of knuckle in a big pot of cold water.

Seasonings: 2 bashed ginger chunks, stick of cinnamon, 5-7 cloves, 4 star anise. Added fish sauce and salt.

Skimmed fat and impurities but didn't throw out first batch of soup. Wiped inside pot clean of impurities with paper towel. I like texture in my soup, so didn't make mine a clear broth.

I added in daikon, onions and carrots into broth.

Sprinkled thinly sliced onions and also chopped scallions as garnish.

And hey, sometimes my dishes don't turn out as well but the best part is experimenting and the more I do it, the more I'll know what flavors and textures I like. Don't just follow a recipe blindly, use it to fit your own needs.

Had this beef neck bone pho with glass noodles.


Andrea Nguyen's blog: Vietworldkitchen: Basic Pho Cooking Secrets and Techniques If you scroll to the bottom, she lists other pho posts! What an oustanding writer and teacher. I've learned so much from her and always enjoy her posts. Her book: Into the Vietnamese Kitchen was a finalist in the James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence, Best Asian cookbook among many other accolades.

Jaden Hair's comprehensive and gorgeous step-by-step color photos on Steamykitchen for Vietnamese Beef Noodle Pho is how I made my first pho and based on Andrea's book! Jaden is great with breaking it down and keeping it real plus she knows how to make cooking fun with her witty writing. Anytime I mention Jaden, I must thank her for including Wok Star in her recent Steamy Kitchen Cookbook! She's on the forefront of the latest media, hang in with her. So many new Wok Stars are born due to her.

Loving Pho is the ULTIMATE resource - EVERYTHING you need to know about pho!

Taste Book has 45 pho soup recipes (referred by Don of Foodie Prints, thanks):

In Pho Variations, I added different ingredients using the same beef broth as base, take a look.

Love to hear about your Pho creation and what's your favorite Pho?

Now that I've shown you I don't always cook everything in my wok, here are some dishes I have made in my wok!

One Dish Wok Meals

Malaysian Chicken Curry

Wok Breakfasts

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pho Variations

Pho Variations

Photos above
Left: Pork/Toufu, fennel, carrots, daikon, spinach.
Right: Beef neckbones, daikon, fennel, spinach.
Bottom: Beef neckbones, pork, toufu, carrot, chayote.

Pho Variations is part of the Pho show and tell with some Pho Stars, so do hop over for the full Pho (I couldn't resist that!) at To Pho Or Not To Pho. You'll find Steamykitchen and Vietworldkitchen's links for their full recipes since I don't write recipes or measure anything. I just use my judgement.

This was a lot of fun to do this blog with other people in many ways. It gave me a deadline, a good thing to light the fire under me. It gave us a chance to get the buzz going about Pho but best of all, I really enjoyed the camaraderie of sharing our Pho creations. You don't need a ton of ingredients to make this, keep it SIMPLE and you'll enjoy it the most. Big TIP, make a big pot so you can freeze the pho broth and make variations with it.

I started off with a traditional Beef Pho, once I got that down, I created 3 variations. This is the same approach I teach about wok cooking, once you get my no-recipe technique down, you can make your own variations.

The first variation:
I added fennel and spinach to the beef neckbone pho, very simple.
This time, I used my Chinese claypot to make my pho as I had less bones.

I added in the spinach leaves right before serving.

The second variation was with pork and toufu together with daikon, fennel, spinach and carrots.

The pork was from a pork butt joint I bought to make a roast. This proved disastrous, meat for roasting is definitely not suitable for pho! No, no, no. The pork was tough and chewy.

TIP: I like to use one big cutting board for all my veggies, saves washing all the dishes! Veggies go straight from chopping board into claypot of broth.

Once the broth was ready, I cooked the pork slices and took them out. Then added in daikon, carrots and fennel.

See how the pork looks chewy and tough.

Toufu went in next. Then spinach, cilantro and scallions right before serving.

I made a traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce: Koon Chun hoisin and Huy Fong chili garlic sauce

Freshly squeezed lime and cilantro gives Pho its distinct flavor!

This third and last variation: veggies were carrot, chayote and daikon. Protein were: beef neckbones, pork and toufu.

VEGAN TIP: Vegans can make a vegetable broth and use a different variety of toufu.

What's the verdict?
I have to say the first traditional pho was my favorite because there were less ingredients so you could really taste the flavors of each ingredient. Lesson learned? Less is more. It's what I'm constantly suggesting when making your one-dish wok meals and a pho is no different.

Remember to stop over for my first Pho attempt, To Pho Or Not To Pho and get the scoop from 5 other Pho Stars' fantastic creations!

Love to hear about your Pho creations and what's your favorite Pho?

Now that I've shown you I don't always cook everything in my wok, here are some dishes I have made in my wok!

One Dish Wok Meals

Malaysian Chicken Curry

Wok Breakfasts

Related Posts with Thumbnails

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